Wednesday, July 15, 2015

One Journey Home

Author Walking Among the Trees
My parents finally got on their bicycles and road out of the campground with a handful of friends with them. They were on their second bicycle ride across the United States and would go on to do it a third time with a fourth going north to south for good measure. But for me, I was in my third year of college and beginning to think about that big wide world that awaited me when I graduated in another couple years. No I didn't add wrong, I was on the five and a half year plan. Back to my point, I was in my early 20's, was leaving my parents behind in southern California and was tasked with driving their car back to their farm in Iowa. I also had a week left of winter break before the spring semester began. What to do first?

We (my younger brother and soon to be college freshman was with me) started off by heading north to the hills above Los Angeles where a great aunt and uncle who doted on us lived in a mansion. They had done well over the years and lived in a huge house in the hills and most importantly growing up, had sent up whatever present for our birthday or Christmas that we requested, no matter what the cost. Since they were estranged from the rest of the family and had no children of their own, they doted us with money and promised us a large inheritance when they departed life. It made since in my financial strapped college position to stay in good graces with them and so we stopped by for a visit. As it turned out when they died a couple years later, having estranged siblings trumped a will and I ended up with an afghan and a box of used pencils.

A couple hours later we headed north to a small town outside of Giant Sequoia National Park where we camped for the night in a motel run by a small middle east man. I don't know about you but after a long day on the road, when I first check into a motel the first thing I do is kick off the shoes and lay down in the bed for a few minutes. I did just that and made the comment that the bed felt like it was a mattress laying on concrete. My brother lifted the cover of his bed and said, that is exactly what it was. It was in fact a pad of cinder blocks that had been cemented together into a large pad with a piece of thin plywood on top of that to protect the thin mattress resting on top. Later we discovered a shower stall also made of cinder blocks to complete the motif. We spent the rest of the evening watching the television that got three fuzzy channels and occasionally threw shoes at the mice that we saw scampering across the room. We made sure to tie up our bags to the fire sprinkler pipe in the bathroom with our shoelaces to keep them from being ransacked by rodents while we slept. We were living it large for the $29.99 we spent for the room.

The next day we drove up the mountain to the part and because it was New Year's Day, we had the place to ourselves. We spent the morning walking around craning our heads to the sky trying to comprehend the size of the trees. I was impressed with the sequoia trees and still think of them in terms as how many rooms of my house could fit in the footprint of one trunk. But what impressed me most were the size of some of the other trees trying to grow in between the sequoia trees. I saw trees that grew back in Iowa that were nearly eight feet in diameter that were dwarfed by the sequoia trees but were nearly three times bigger than anything I had ever seen in my life. My brother and I climbed up on top of a fallen sequoia tree only with the help of some crusted snow that was probably deeper than I am tall and we ate our lunch while marveling at those giant trees. Finally voices far off towards the few paths that had been cleared of snow signaled other people were arriving and it was our time to go. We walked back to my parent's SUV and drove back down the mountain stopping only to steal a sugar pine cone twice the size of my head as a trophy.

We spent one more evening in another seedy motel in southwestern Utah though this one actually had a real box spring under the mattress and no mice to share occupancy. On the third day, we did something I have regretted ever since. We drove straight through the day and night to our college dorm choosing to save money instead of visit more places along the way. I have been back to many of the areas we drove through over the years to see what I missed but have yet to make it to southeastern Utah, a place I have wanted to visit ever since. We did witness a high speed car chase somewhere in western Nebraska at dark thirty at night when a car followed by three police chasers went past us at a speed that made our eighty miles an hour (15 mph over the speed limit) seem like we were out for a Sunday cruise. It took them awhile to catch the guy in the fleeing car. I know this because we drove for another 15 minutes at a sedate 65mph before coming across the overturned car with police officers crouched down behind car doors with guns drawn. Needless to say, we didn't stop to see the ending.


sage said...

That must have been exciting to have traveled so far when you were young... In college, I got up into the mountains of NC, TN and VA for some hiking and kayaking, but never any further. That would come later. Thanks for taking us along.

Ed said...

Sage - I had been to the Rocky mountains many times before but that was my first trip west of the mountains into California. It was nice to be trusted by my parents to bring their vehicle home safe and sound.

edifice rex said...

Utah is on my bucket list for sure. Jack has been there at least a couple of times but didn't get to see much as I think he was working most of the time. So, it's a place we both want to explore on our next trip west.

Bone said...

Northern California is a place I for sure want to see. It seems our road trips are always rushed, due at least partly to a lack of ample vacation time. Oh well, it's about the destination, not the journey... says no one, ever.

Ed said...

Edifice Rex - It's been on my bucket list for a long time. Unfortunately, time keeps dribbling away and my bucket only gets fuller.

Bone - With airlines making getting places quickly more painful and unenjoyable, driving trips certainly do limit what you can see. I keep saying that one of these days, we are going to take a month off at a time so we have ample time to go where we please.